Photo of a girl sitting in a dim lit room looking at her phone with concern.

Sometimes it can be hard to know where to draw the line between annoying, clingy interactions and stalking. Shows and movies can make it seem like persistence is the key to winning someone over. However, persistence can quickly turn into discomfort or fear when it’s unwelcome. Here are a few things everyone should know about stalking.

#1 Stalking can take many forms

Stalking goes beyond following someone. It can include a variety of tactics, which can happen in person and/or online. Stalking is defined as a pattern of unwanted behavior, directed at a specific person, which causes that person to change their routine or feel afraid, nervous or in danger.

Examples of stalking behaviors include:

  • Repeated, unwanted phone calls, texts, messages, etc. that may or may not be threatening
  • Creating fake profiles to continue contacting a person after they have been blocked on their personal account
  • Observing, following or “coincidentally” showing up wherever the person goes
  • Waiting outside of the person’s class, home, job, car, etc.
  • Leaving notes, gifts or other items for the person
  • Spreading rumors online and in person
  • Posting messages or images of the person on social media or in discussion groups
  • Vandalism or destruction of property, including sabotaging schoolwork
  • Breaking into the person’s home or car
  • Hacking into the person’s social media, email or other accounts
  • Collecting information about the person through friends, family members, coworkers or acquaintances
  • Contacting other people in order to gain information about how to access them

#2 Stalking can happen to anyone

While stalking is often directed at someone from a previous or current intimate relationship, a person can also be stalked by former friends, roommates, classmates or someone they have occasionally or never met before, including matches from dating apps. 

Here are some ways to identify healthy, unhealthy and concerning behaviors that may require additional help or support:

 Healthy boundaries are when: You say “no” and the other person respectfully leaves and does not contact you again.

​ Unhealthy behaviors are when: You say “no” and the other person contacts you again.

​ Consider discussing with someone or documenting what is happening when: You say “no” again and the other person tries to talk you into saying “yes”, continues to contact you and/or contacts you more often.

​ Consider calling the police/seeking help when: You are contacted repeatedly, the other person shows up where you are, indirectly threatens you, is disrespectful and/or does not take “no” for an answer.

​ Call 911 when: The other person directly threatens you, tries to physically harm you, harms you or damages your property (including your pets).

#3 Stalking is a serious criminal offense

Stalking behaviors by themselves may or may not be illegal. However, context of the behaviors and the impact they have on the other person are key. Stalking violates CU’s campus policies and is considered a serious crime in Colorado. CU Boulder provides a number of reporting and support options for those experiencing stalking.

 General support

The Don’t Ignore It website provides options for seeking confidential support on and off campus, skills for helping others and reporting options related to sexual misconduct, stalking, intimate partner abuse, harassment and discrimination.

 Confidential services

Students, staff and faculty can get confidential support and/or counseling through the Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) by calling 303-492-8855 or filling out a confidential request form online. This form will only be reviewed by OVA staff – the university will not be notified and no investigative action will take place. If you would like to get in contact with an OVA advocate counselor, be sure to include your contact information. OVA advocate counselors can provide additional support to help individuals explore their rights and options, make a safety plan, learn about medical treatment and reporting options if needed, discuss their living situation and more.

 University reporting

If you think you may be experiencing stalking, you can report the incident to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC). OIEC can address concerns in a variety of ways including a formal grievance process or through a policy compliance meeting with the person engaging in behaviors that might be considered stalking. Additionally, OIEC may be able to provide safety and supportive measures, such as no contact orders, academic support remedies and more. You can file a report with OIEC by calling 303-492-2127, emailing or filling out a report online.

 Law enforcement reporting

Reporting to the police can take many forms and doesn’t have to lead to filing of criminal charges. An informational or anonymous report is sometimes an option to make the police aware of the situation. Individuals may have the option to ask police to contact the person to give a verbal warning or press criminal charges.